A common presupposition in the concepts literature is that concepts constitute a singular natural kind. If, on the contrary, concepts split into more than one kind, this literature needs to be recast in terms of other kinds of mental representation. We offer two new arguments that concepts, in fact, divide into different kinds: ( a ) concepts split because different kinds of mental representation, processed independently, must be posited to explain different sets of relevant phenomena; ( b ) concepts split (...) because different kinds of mental representation, processed independently, must be posited to explain responses to different kinds of category. Whether these arguments are sound remains an open empirical question, to be resolved by future empirical and theoretical work. *Received April 2005; revised May 2006. †To contact the authors, please write to: Gualtiero Piccinini, Department of Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130‐4899; e‐mail: email@example.com . Sam Scott, 11‐1317 King Street West, Toronto, ON, M6K 1H2, Canada; e‐mail: SamScott@Canada.com . (shrink)
We sketch a framework for building a unified science of cognition. This unification is achieved by showing how functional analyses of cognitive capacities can be integrated with the multilevel mechanistic explanations of neural systems. The core idea is that functional analyses are sketches of mechanisms , in which some structural aspects of a mechanistic explanation are omitted. Once the missing aspects are filled in, a functional analysis turns into a full-blown mechanistic explanation. By this process, functional analyses are seamlessly integrated (...) with multilevel mechanistic explanations. (shrink)
Computation and information processing are among the most fundamental notions in cognitive science. They are also among the most imprecisely discussed. Many cognitive scientists take it for granted that cognition involves computation, information processing, or both – although others disagree vehemently. Yet different cognitive scientists use ‘computation’ and ‘information processing’ to mean different things, sometimes without realizing that they do. In addition, computation and information processing are surrounded by several myths; first and foremost, that they are the same thing. In (...) this paper, we address this unsatisfactory state of affairs by presenting a general and theory-neutral account of computation and information processing. We also apply our framework by analyzing the relations between computation and information processing on one hand and classicism and connectionism on the other. We defend the relevance to cognitive science of both computation, in a generic sense that we fully articulate for the first time, and information processing, in three important senses of the term. Our account advances some foundational debates in cognitive science by untangling some of their conceptual knots in a theory-neutral way. By leveling the playing field, we pave the way for the future resolution of the debates’ empirical aspects. (shrink)
As our data will show, negative existential sentences containing socalled empty names evoke the same strong semantic intuitions in ordinary speakers and philosophers alike.Santa Claus does not exist.Superman does not exist.Clark Kent does not exist.Uttering the sentences in (1) seems to say something truth-evaluable, to say something true, and to say something different for each sentence. A semantic theory ought to explain these semantic intuitions.The intuitions elicited by (1) are in apparent conflict with the Millian view of proper names. According (...) to Millianism, the meaning (or 'semantic value') of a proper name is just its referent. But empty names, such as 'Santa Claus' and 'Superman', appear to lack a .. (shrink)
Â I appeal to Merkerâ€™s theory to motivate a hypothesis about the ontology of consciousness:Â creature consciousness is (at least partially) constitutive of phenomenal consciousness.Â Rather than elaborating theories of phenomenal consciousness couched solely in terms of state consciousness, as philosophers are fond of doing, a correct approach to phenomenal consciousness should begin with an account of creature consciousness.
Computationalism has been the mainstream view of cognition for decades. There are periodic reports of its demise, but they are greatly exaggerated. This essay surveys some recent literature on computationalism. It concludes that computationalism is a family of theories about the mechanisms of cognition. The main relevant evidence for testing it comes from neuroscience, though psychology and AI are relevant too. Computationalism comes in many versions, which continue to guide competing research programs in philosophy of mind as well as psychology (...) and neuroscience. Although our understanding of computationalism has deepened in recent years, much work in this area remains to be done. (shrink)
According to the zombie conceivability argument, phenomenal zombies are conceivable, and hence possible, and hence physicalism is false. Critics of the conceivability argument have responded by denying either that zombies are conceivable or that they are possible. Much of the controversy hinges on how to establish and understand what is conceivable, what is possible, and the link between the two—matters that are at least as obscure and controversial as whether consciousness is physical. Because of this, the debate over physicalism is (...) unlikely to be resolved by thinking about zombies—or at least, zombies as discussed by philosophers to date.
In this paper, I explore an alternative strategy against the zombie conceivability argument. I accept the possibility of zombies and ask whether that possibility is accessible (in the sense of ‘accessible’ used in possible world semantics) to our world. It turns out that the question of whether zombie worlds are accessible to our world is equivalent to the question of whether physicalism is true. By assuming that zombie worlds are accessible to our world, supporters of the zombie conceivability argument beg the question against physicalists. I will then consider what happens if a supporter of the zombie conceivability argument should insist that zombie worlds are accessible to our world. I will argue that the same ingredients used in the zombie conceivability argument—whatever they might be—can be used to construct an argument to the opposite conclusion. If that is correct, we reach a stalemate between physicalism and property dualism: while the possibility of some zombies entails property dualism, the possibility of other creatures entails physicalism. Since these two possibilities are inconsistent, one of them is not genuine. To resolve this stalemate, we need more than thought experiments. (shrink)
Defending or attacking either functionalism or computationalism requires clarity on what they amount to and what evidence counts for or against them. My goal here is not to evaluate their plausibility. My goal is to formulate them and their relationship clearly enough that we can determine which type of evidence is relevant to them. I aim to dispel some sources of confusion that surround functionalism and computationalism, recruit recent philosophical work on mechanisms and computation to shed light on them, and (...) clarify how functionalism and computationalism may or may not legitimately come together. (shrink)
According to the computational theory of mind (CTM), mental capacities are explained by inner computations, which in biological organisms are realized in the brain. Computational explanation is so popular and entrenched that it’s common for scientists and philosophers to assume CTM without argument.
First-person data have been both condemned and hailed because of their alleged privacy. Critics argue that science must be based on public evidence: since first-person data are private, they should be banned from science. Apologists reply that first-person data are necessary for understanding the mind: since first-person data are private, scientists must be allowed to use private evidence. I argue that both views rest on a false premise. In psychology and neuroscience, the subjects issuing first-person reports and other sources of (...) first-person data play the epistemic role of a (self-) measuring instrument. Data from measuring instruments are public and can be validated by public methods. Therefore, first-person data are as public as other scientific data: their use in science is legitimate, in accordance with standard scientific methodology. (shrink)
According to some philosophers, computational explanation is proprietary to psychology—it does not belong in neuroscience. But neuroscientists routinely offer computational explanations of cognitive phenomena. In fact, computational explanation was initially imported from computability theory into the science of mind by neuroscientists, who justified this move on neurophysiological grounds. Establishing the legitimacy and importance of computational explanation in neuroscience is one thing; shedding light on it is another. I raise some philosophical questions pertaining to computational explanation and outline some promising answers that (...) are being developed by a number of authors. (shrink)
The received view is that computational states are individuated at least in part by their semantic properties. I offer an alternative, according to which computational states are individuated by their functional properties. Functional properties are specified by a mechanistic explanation without appealing to any semantic properties. The primary purpose of this paper is to formulate the alternative view of computational individuation, point out that it supports a robust notion of computational explanation, and defend it on the grounds of how computational (...) states are individuated within computability theory and computer science. A secondary purpose is to show that existing arguments for the semantic view are defective. (shrink)
Machery argues that “philosophical theories of concepts” and “psychological theories of concepts” are about different things (31).2 To begin with, the expression “philosophical theory of concept” is somewhat obscure. Machery seems to use it as a synonym for “theory of concepts developed by a philosopher” (33, 34). Now, it may be true that some theories of concepts proposed by philosophers are about something different than the theories proposed by psychologists. But other theories of concepts proposed by professional philosophers – including (...) Machery! – are explicitly after same thing (e.g., Fodor 2008, which Machery cites). Roughly speaking, they are after the building blocks of thought. Slightly more precisely, concepts – the target of theories proposed by both psychologists and many philosophers – are representations posited to explain certain cognitive phenomena, including recognition, naming, inference, and language understanding (cf. Piccinini and Scott 2006, 396).3 To be sure, philosophers tend to emphasize aspects of concepts, such as how concepts get to represent categories, that.. (shrink)
Since the cognitive revolution, it’s become commonplace that cognition involves both computation and information processing. Is this one claim or two? Is computation the same as information processing? The two terms are often used interchangeably, but this usage masks important differences. In this paper, we distinguish information processing from computation and examine some of their mutual relations, shedding light on the role each can play in a theory of cognition. We recommend that theoristError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode (...) CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMaps of cognition be explicit and careful in choosing 1 notions of computation and information and connecting them together. Much confusion can be avoided by doing so. Keywords: computation, information processing, computationalism, computational theory of mind, cognitivism. (shrink)
According to pancomputationalism, everything is a computing system. In this paper, I distinguish between different varieties of pancomputationalism. I find that although some varieties are more plausible than others, only the strongest variety is relevant to the philosophy of mind, but only the most trivial varieties are true. As a side effect of this exercise, I offer a clarified distinction between computational modelling and computational explanation.<br><br>.
(June 2013) “The mind-body problem in cognitive neuroscience”, Philosophia Scientiae 17/2, Gabriel Vacariu and Mihai Vacariu (eds.): 1. William Bechtel (Philosophy, Center for Chronobiology, and Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science University of California, San Diego) “The endogenously active brain: the need for an alternative cognitive architecture” 2. Rolls T. Edmund (Oxford Centre for Computational Neuroscience, Oxford, UK) “On the relation between the mind and the brain: a neuroscience perspective” 3. Cees van Leeuwen (University of Leuven, Belgium; Riken Brain Science Institute, (...) Japan) “Brain and mind” 4. Kari Theurer (Trinity College) and John Bickle (Philosophy, Mississippi State University) “What’s old is new again: Kemeny-Oppenheim reduction at work in current molecular neuroscience” 5. Bernard Andrieu (Staps Université de Lorraine) “Sentir son cerveau? Les dispositifs neuro-expérientiels en 1er personne” 6. Corey Maley and Gualtiero Piccinini (Philosophy, University of Missouri – St. Louis) “Get the latest upgrade: Functionalism 6.3.1” 7. Paula Droege (Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University) “Memory and consciousness” 8. Gabriel Vacariu and Mihai Vacariu (Philosophy, University of Bucharest) “Troubles with cognitive neuroscience”. (shrink)
Some philosophers have conﬂated functionalism and computationalism. I reconstruct how this came about and uncover two assumptions that made the conﬂation possible. They are the assumptions that (i) psychological functional analyses are computational descriptions and (ii) everything may be described as performing computations. I argue that, if we want to improve our understanding of both the metaphysics of mental states and the functional relations between them, we should reject these assumptions. # 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Heterophenomenology is a third-person methodology proposed by Daniel Dennett for using first-person reports as scientific evidence. I argue that heterophenomenology can be improved by making six changes: (i) setting aside consciousness, (ii) including other sources of first-person data besides first-person reports, (iii) abandoning agnosticism as to the truth value of the reports in favor of the most plausible assumptions we can make about what can be learned from the data, (iv) interpreting first-person reports (and other first-person behaviors) directly in terms (...) of target mental states rather than in terms of beliefs about them, (v) dropping any residual commitment to incorrigibility of first-person reports, and (vi) recognizing that thirdperson methodology does have positive effects on scientific practices. When these changes are made, heterophenomenology turns into the self-measurement methodology of firstperson data that I have defended in previous papers. (shrink)
Introspective reports are used as sources of information about other minds, in both everyday life and science. Many scientists and philosophers consider this practice unjustified, while others have made the untestable assumption that introspection is a truthful method of private observation. I argue that neither skepticism nor faith concerning introspective reports are warranted. As an alternative, I consider our everyday, commonsensical reliance on each other’s introspective reports. When we hear people talk about their minds, we neither refuse to learn from (...) nor blindly accept what they say. Sometimes we accept what we are told, other times we reject it, and still other times we take the report, revise it in light of what we believe, then accept the modified version. Whatever we do, we have (implicit) reasons for it. In developing a sound methodology for the scientific use of introspective reports, we can take our commonsense treatment of introspective reports and make it more explicit and rigorous. We can discover what to infer from introspective reports in a way similar to how we do it every day, but with extra knowledge, methodological care, and precision. Sorting out the use of introspective reports as sources of data is going to be a painstaking, piecemeal task, but it promises to enhance our science of the mind and brain. (shrink)
Roughly speaking, computationalism says that cognition is computation, or that cognitive phenomena are explained by the agent‘s computations. The cognitive processes and behavior of agents are the explanandum. The computations performed by the agents‘ cognitive systems are the proposed explanans. Since the cognitive systems of biological organisms are their nervous 1 systems (plus or minus a bit), we may say that according to computationalism, the cognitive processes and behavior of organisms are explained by neural computations. Some people might prefer to (...) say that cognitive systems are ―realized‖ by nervous systems, and thus that—according to computationalism—cognitive computations are ―realized‖ by neural processes. In this paper, nothing hinges on the nature of the relation between cognitive systems and nervous systems, or between computations and neural processes. For present purposes, if a neural process realizes a computation, then that neural process is a computation. Thus, I will couch much of my discussion in terms of nervous systems and neural computation.1 Before proceeding, we should dispense with a possible red herring. Contrary to a common assumption, computationalism does not stand in opposition to connectionism. Connectionism, in the most general and common sense of the term, is the claim that cognitive phenomena are explained (at some level and at least in part) by the processes of neural networks. This is a truism, supported by most neuroscientific evidence. Everybody ought to be a connectionist in this general sense. The relevant question is, are neural processes computations? More precisely, are the neural processes to be found in the nervous systems of organisms computations? Computationalists say ―yes‖, anti-computationalists say ―no‖. This paper investigates whether any of the arguments on offer against computationalism have a chance at knocking it off.2 Ever since Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts (1943) first proposed it, computationalism has been subjected to a wide range of objections.. (shrink)
This paper concerns Alan Turing’s ideas about machines, mathematical methods of proof, and intelligence. By the late 1930s, Kurt Gödel and other logicians, including Turing himself, had shown that no finite set of rules could be used to generate all true mathematical statements. Yet according to Turing, there was no upper bound to the number of mathematical truths provable by intelligent human beings, for they could invent new rules and methods of proof. So, the output of a human mathematician, for (...) Turing, was not a computable sequence (i.e., one that could be generated by a Turing machine). Since computers only contained a finite number of instructions (or programs), one might argue, they could not reproduce human intelligence. Turing called this the “mathematical objection” to his view that machines can think. Logico-mathematical reasons, stemming from his own work, helped to convince Turing that it should be possible to reproduce human intelligence, and eventually compete with it, by developing the appropriate kind of digital computer. He felt it should be possible to program a computer so that it could learn or discover new rules, overcoming the limitations imposed by the incompleteness and undecidability results in the same way that human mathematicians presumably do. (shrink)
I offer an explication of the notion of computer, grounded in the practices of computability theorists and computer scientists. I begin by explaining what distinguishes computers from calculators. Then, I offer a systematic taxonomy of kinds of computer, including hard-wired versus programmable, general-purpose versus special-purpose, analog versus digital, and serial versus parallel, giving explicit criteria for each kind. My account is mechanistic: which class a system belongs in, and which functions are computable by which system, depends on the system's mechanistic (...) properties. Finally, I briefly illustrate how my account sheds light on some issues in the history and philosophy of computing as well as the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
This article defends a modest version of the Physical Church-Turing thesis (CT). Following an established recent trend, I distinguish between what I call Mathematical CT—the thesis supported by the original arguments for CT—and Physical CT. I then distinguish between bold formulations of Physical CT, according to which any physical process—anything doable by a physical system—is computable by a Turing machine, and modest formulations, according to which any function that is computable by a physical system is computable by a Turing machine. (...) I argue that Bold Physical CT is not relevant to the epistemological concerns that motivate CT and hence not suitable as a physical analog of Mathematical CT. The correct physical analog of Mathematical CT is Modest Physical CT. I propose to explicate the notion of physical computability in terms of a usability constraint, according to which for a process to count as relevant to Physical CT, it must be usable by a finite observer to obtain the desired values of a function. Finally, I suggest that proposed counterexamples to Physical CT are still far from falsifying it because they have not been shown to satisfy the usability constraint. (shrink)
I address whether neural networks perform computations in the sense of computability theory and computer science. I explicate and defend the following theses. (1) Many neural networks compute—they perform computations. (2) Some neural networks compute in a classical way. Ordinary digital computers, which are very large networks of logic gates, belong in this class of neural networks. (3) Other neural networks compute in a non-classical way. (4) Yet other neural networks do not perform computations. Brains may well fall into this last class.
Introspection used to be excluded from science because it isn?t public--for any question about mental states, only the person whose states are in question can answer by introspecting. However, we often use introspective reports to gauge each other?s minds, and contemporary psychologists generate data from them. I argue that some uses of introspection are as public as any scientific method.
This paper offers an account of what it is for a physical system to be a computing mechanism—a system that performs computations. A computing mechanism is a mechanism whose function is to generate output strings from input strings and (possibly) internal states, in accordance with a general rule that applies to all relevant strings and depends on the input strings and (possibly) internal states for its application. This account is motivated by reasons endogenous to the philosophy of computing, namely, doing (...) justice to the practices of computer scientists and computability theorists. It is also an application of recent literature on mechanisms, because it assimilates computational explanation to mechanistic explanation. The account can be used to individuate computing mechanisms and the functions they compute and to taxonomize computing mechanisms based on their computing power. (shrink)
Some philosophers have conflated functionalism and computationalism. I reconstruct how this came about and uncover two assumptions that made the conflation possible. They are the assumptions that (i) psychological functional analyses are computational descriptions and (ii) everything may be described as performing computations. I argue that, if we want to improve our understanding of both the metaphysics of mental states and the functional relations between them, we should reject these assumptions.
Computationalism says that brains are computing mechanisms, that is, mechanisms that perform computations. At present, there is no consensus on how to formulate computationalism precisely or adjudicate the dispute between computationalism and its foes, or between different versions of computationalism. An important reason for the current impasse is the lack of a satisfactory philosophical account of computing mechanisms. The main goal of this dissertation is to offer such an account. I also believe that the history of computationalism sheds light on the (...) current debate. By tracing different versions of computationalism to their common historical origin, we can see how the current divisions originated and understand their motivation. Reconstructing debates over computationalism in the context of their own intellectual history can contribute to philosophical progress on the relation between brains and computing mechanisms and help determine how brains and computing mechanisms are alike, and how they differ. Accordingly, my dissertation is divided into a historical part, which traces the early history of computationalism up to 1946, and a philosophical part, which offers an account of computing mechanisms. The two main ideas developed in this dissertation are that (1) computational states are to be identified functionally not semantically, and (2) computing mechanisms are to be studied by functional analysis. The resulting account of computing mechanism, which I call the functional account of computing mechanisms, can be used to identify computing mechanisms and the functions they compute. I use the functional account of computing mechanisms to taxonomize computing mechanisms based on their different computing power, and I use this taxonomy of computing mechanisms to taxonomize different versions of computationalism based on the functional properties that they ascribe to brains. By doing so, I begin to tease out empirically testable statements about the functional organization of the brain that different versions of computationalism are committed to. I submit that when computationalism is reformulated in the more explicit and precise way I propose, the disputes about computationalism can be adjudicated on the grounds of empirical evidence from neuroscience. (shrink)
Despite its significance in neuroscience and computation, McCulloch and Pitts's celebrated 1943 paper has received little historical and philosophical attention. In 1943 there already existed a lively community of biophysicists doing mathematical work on neural networks. What was novel in McCulloch and Pitts's paper was their use of logic and computation to understand neural, and thus mental, activity. McCulloch and Pitts's contributions included (i) a formalism whose refinement and generalization led to the notion of finite automata (an important formalism in (...) computability theory), (ii) a technique that inspired the notion of logic design (a fundamental part of modern computer design), (iii) the first use of computation to address the mind–body problem, and (iv) the first modern computational theory of mind and brain. (shrink)
The Church–Turing Thesis (CTT) is often employed in arguments for computationalism. I scrutinize the most prominent of such arguments in light of recent work on CTT and argue that they are unsound. Although CTT does nothing to support computationalism, it is not irrelevant to it. By eliminating misunderstandings about the relationship between CTT and computationalism, we deepen our appreciation of computationalism as an empirical hypothesis.
Abstract: According to the Veridicality Thesis, information requires truth. On this view, smoke carries information about there being a fire only if there is a fire, the proposition that the earth has two moons carries information about the earth having two moons only if the earth has two moons, and so on. We reject this Veridicality Thesis. We argue that the main notions of information used in cognitive science and computer science allow A to have information about the obtaining of (...) p even when p is false. (shrink)
I argue that neural activity, strictly speaking, is not computation. This is because computation, strictly speaking, is the processing of strings of symbols, and neuroscience shows that there are no neural strings of symbols. This has two consequences. On the one hand, the following widely held consequences of computationalism must either be abandoned or supported on grounds independent of computationalism: (i) that in principle we can capture what is functionally relevant to neural processes in terms of some formalism taken from (...) computability theory (such as Turing Machines), (ii) that it is possible to design computer programs that are functionally equivalent to neural processes in the same sense in which it is possible to design computer programs that are functionally equivalent to each other, (iii) that the study of neural (or mental) computation is independent of the study of neural implementation, (iv) that the Church-Turing thesis applies to neural activity in the sense in which it applies to digital computers. On the other hand, we need to gradually reinterpret or replace computational theories in psychology in terms of theoretical constructs that can be realized by known neural processes, such as the spike trains of neuronal ensembles. (shrink)
We argue that Machery provides no convincing evidence that prototypes and exemplars are typically used in distinct cognitive processes. This partially undermines the fourth tenet of the Heterogeneity Hypothesis and thus casts doubts on Machery’s way of splitting concepts into different kinds. Although Machery may be right that concepts split into different kinds, such kinds may be different from those countenanced by the Heterogeneity Hypothesis.
Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel’s groundbreaking book, Describing Inner Experience: Proponent Meets Skeptic, examines a research method called Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES). DES, which was developed by Hurlburt and collaborators, works roughly as follows. An investigator gives a subject a random beeper. During the day, as the subject hears a beep, she writes a description of her conscious experience just before the beep. The next day, the investigator interviews the subject, asks for more details, corrects any apparent mistakes made by the subject, (...) and draws conclusions about the subject’s mind. Throughout the book, Schwitzgebel challenges some of Hurlburt’s specific conclusions. Yet both agree – and so do I – that DES is a worthy method. (shrink)
The following three theses are inconsistent: (1) (Paradigmatic) connectionist systems perform computations. (2) Performing computations requires executing programs. (3) Connectionist systems do not execute programs. Many authors embrace (2). This leads them to a dilemma: either connectionist systems execute programs or they don't compute. Accordingly, some authors attempt to deny (1), while others attempt to deny (3). But as I will argue, there are compelling reasons to accept both (1) and (3). So, we should replace (2) with a more satisfactory (...) account of computation. Once we do, we can see more clearly what is peculiar to connectionist computation. (shrink)
∗A special thanks to those who have assisted my archival research, including Aldo Antonelli, John Burgess, Michael Della Rocca, Herbert Enderton, Bernard Linsky, Heidi Lockwood, Ruth Barcan Marcus, Julien Murzi and Bas van Fraassen. An extra special thanks to Julien Murzi, who as my research assistant in the Fall of 2005 helped me to identify and think more clearly about the famous anonymous referee reports, which are central to the present paper. For discussion and/or assistance I am also grateful to (...) many others, including Scott Berman, Berit Brogaard, Judy Crane, Susan Brower- Toland, David Chalmers, Solomon Feferman, Nick Griﬃn, Michael Hand, Monte Johnson, Jon Kvanvig, Matthias Lutz-Bachmann, Robert Meyer, Andreas Niederberger, Gualtiero Piccinini, Graham Priest, Krister Segerberg, Wilfried Sieg, Roy Sorensen, Kent Staley, Jim Stone, Neil Tennant, Achille Varzi, Nick Zavediuk, anonymous readers for OUP, and audience members at the Paciﬁc APA in Portland (March 24, 2006), the Goethe University of Frankfurt (May 15, 2006), the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation at the University of Amsterdam (May 23, 2006), and the Namicona Epistemology Workshop, at the University of Copenhagen (August 22, 2006). Thanks also to my department at Saint Louis University for granting time and resources to research and write the paper. (shrink)
This paper offers an account of what it is for a physical system to be a computing mechanism—a mechanism that performs computations. A computing mechanism is any mechanism whose functional analysis ascribes it the function of generating outputs strings from input strings in accordance with a general rule that applies to all strings. This account is motivated by reasons that are endogenous to the philosophy of computing, but it may also be seen as an application of recent literature on mechanisms. (...) The account can be used to individuate computing mechanisms and the functions they compute and to taxonomize computing mechanisms based on their computing power. This makes it ideal for grounding the comparison and assessment of computational theories of mind and brain. (shrink)